Daily Music Info: Interview with Silversun Pickups from Denverpost.com.
- Pickups a serendipitous success - Trial and error worked for
By Ricardo Baca
Denver Post Pop Music Critic
Rock 'n' roll is a land of misperceptions. Some lyrics are poetry
while others are nonsensical. Some bands are built on love and ego,
others on hate and self-loathing.
Some bands come together and everything is laid out for them like a
floor plan. He's the best guitar player and the natural songwriter of
the group, she's steady on the bass and has the best voice, and their
buddy is comfortable only when he's behind a drum kit.
But most bands don't have it that easy. Most groups, through much
rehearsal and trial and error, find their fated roles the hard way.
"Everything that we've done has grown slowly and organically," Nikki
Monninger said recently of her band, Silversun Pickups, "and it seems
to have worked out."
The Silversun Pickups are among the buzziest bands to come out of
eastern Los Angeles since Rilo Kiley. The Pickups, hot off recent
late-night performances on Leno, Letterman and Daly, play the
Fillmore Auditorium on Tuesday, opening for Snow Patrol.
They specialize in moody rock music that keys in on fuzzed-out
melodies, spacey atmospherics and psychedelic unisex vocals that
could go either way - man or woman - depending on the song.
When all of these stylistic choices come together, the resulting
music is as addictive as it is original. Everything sounds like it's
in its right place - Monninger's bass complementing Christopher
Guanlao's driving drums as Joe Lester's spacey keys act as the
otherworldly yin to the yang of Brian Aubert's psych- leaning guitars
But the way the band tells it, the members had little idea Aubert
would be their lead singer until it came time to add vocals to their
"Brian became the singer by default because nobody else would step up
to the mic," said Monninger, who co- founded the Pickups with Aubert
in 2000. "Everyone was tentative to try and sing. But he would just
sing melodies because we didn't have words. I always knew he had a
good voice, but he was just a little shy about singing."
It's surprising for anyone familiar with the Pickups and their
intoxicating debut, "Carnavas," an album that topped many critics'
best-of-2006 lists. Aubert's vocals are central to the band's
triumphant music, its impossible-to-classify indie rock, and without
his musings as an anchor, the music could fall flat.
Each song is a battle between loud and soft, melody and psychedelic
noise, mild organization and chaos, and Aubert is the general leading
the charge. It's Aubert's voice that glues together the jangle and
fuzz and crackle and angularity of the Pickups' sound.
Listen to "Kissing Families" and it's difficult to nail down what it
is that makes these L.A. kids different from the pack - although it's
obvious they are very different. The song employs strings along with
more traditional rock instrumentation, and Aubert is a master of
rhythm in his vocals. He uses rhythmic patterns as much as Guanlao
does on drums - similar to Morrissey and his penchant for unique
alliteration and delivery.
It's exhilarating, especially as FM radio grows blander. As some
indie rock trickles into the mainstream - the Pickups' single "Lazy
Eye" recently was picked up by terrestrial radio, MTV and licensing
outlets galore - the variety makes everything more exciting.
But just as the Pickups didn't know Aubert would be their singer,
they had no idea it would be "Lazy Eye" that eventually would lead
them to a larger audience, especially because the album first hit
with college radio DJs, who play whatever songs they choose as
opposed to a label-sanctioned single.
"We were surprised it became a single because it's just a longer
song," Monninger said. "I love playing that song, but we just thought
of that as being a great album song. ... We thought the first single
would be 'Little Lovers' or 'Well Thought Out Twinkles."'
One of the curiosities of "Lazy Eye" and "Kissing Families" hitting
as they have is that the two songs are among the band's oldest. They
have been working those songs for more than five years - something
that has its upsides.
"It's nice to be able to work on a song for years and then finally
have it the way it should organically be," Monninger said, "as
opposed to recording it really quickly right after you've written
And that is a luxury, one that Monninger and her bandmates will never
"We realize it won't be like that again, and we're excited for the